Food preservationGreen beans - pickled, & ready for freezing.
Hey, I'm back, and I apologize for the lack of a post last week. I had the best of intentions, but with my mother and sister visiting, I wasn't able to break away long enough to get on the blog last weekend...

It was a lovely visit - we went apple picking, sat around our new fire pit on a windy fall evening, and had plenty of laughs and great meals together. My mom is such a workhorse she cleaned out a great big section of the garden where we will be laying out next year's hay bales soon, and also cleaned up my front flower beds. It was great to see them, and I'm so excited my little sister will be only 2 hours away for the next few months!

Along with all of the visiting, I've been in major food-preservation mode for the past few weeks. This year's tomato harvest was amazing despite all of our garden challenges this season, and we ended up with more canned tomatoes than we have ever made before, plus various pickles, and loads of frozen veggies as well. Below are some of this year's efforts, though it is still a work in progress! (Want my recipes? Just follow the links in the post below...)

We had a very challenging start to the garden season - cold for much longer than usual, then suddenly hot and dry. We were plagued with pests almost immediately - cucumber beetles being the worst of it to start with. They killed about half of my melon plants, and all of the cucumbers, and did quite a number on the squash as well. The squash all perished soon afterward, succumbing to squash bugs and vine borers. I eventually dried my tears and went on, as all gardeners must!

Things picked up a bit from there, as we were treated to cooler temperatures for the rest of the summer, as well as plenty of rain. In fact, I didn't even turn on my irrigation lines from the end of June until early September!
Home canned goodsLots and lots of canned tomatoes!
However, with all the rain, during one particularly bad storm, one entire bed of tomatoes blew over - stakes and all. My husband and I managed to pick it all up and next year we will be using the heavy-duty metal stakes for the tomato beds! We lost a lot of tomatoes, but ended up with so many after all that it may have been a blessing in disguise... As I mentioned above, the tomatoes went crazy this year. We ended up canning 42 quarts! (Our previous record was 36, but we grew fewer tomato plants this year.) I didn't dry any this year (we still have quite a few dried tomatoes left over from last year), but I did freeze quite a few as well. However, due to the lack of peppers (as I will explain shortly), I wasn't able to can much salsa - just a few pints.

The peppers suffered from some kind of weird early blight, and I wasn't even sure they were going to make it, but they suddenly pulled through around the beginning of August and finally started blooming, so we are just finally getting peppers NOW!  We definitely won't end up with as many as usual, but I should be able to freeze quite a few green ones at least. I am waiting as long as possible, hoping for some colored ones as well before it freezes...

PictureA hill of beans!
The green beans also had a slow start - partly due to a vole which was eating them - plants and all! I eventually found out what was happening, and removed all of the mulch from the bed, which seemed to resolve the problem. We ended up with pounds and pounds of beans - I lost count of how many bags I froze! I also pickled a couple of jars of "dilly beans" - we haven't tried those yet... We are still picking a couple of pounds per week right now!

The dry beans did really well too - probably due to all the rain. The Jacob's cattle beans are currently drying in the loft, and I will be pulling the black beans soon as well. Fortunately other than letting them dry and shelling them, no preservation is needed for those. :-)

With no cucumbers or squash, I didn't do a ton of pickling this year, but I was able to do a small jar of pickled squash that a neighbor gave us (we love these on hamburgers!), and a bit of okra as well as the green beans. I should also be able to do a couple more jars of banana peppers (which my husband loves), as our only banana pepper plant is finally loaded.

Those are pickled with vinegar - not naturally fermented - but I feel confident enough with fermentation now that I think I will try making some fermented pepper pickles as well, once we start harvesting a lot of the peppers. I found a cool-looking recipe for a fermented pepper salsa base in Mother Earth News that I want to try...

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One of my giant cabbages before...
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...And after! :)
My gorgeous Chinese cabbages started off great (I started them earlier this year than last year), and then recently were stricken with some kind of rot due to the hot weather in September, so I am having to harvest them already. I was hoping to have them into the winter (though maintaining them until February last year was way too much work), but I'd rather pick them now than have them all rot away.

I have 2 jars of kimchi brewing right now, and have promised my husband a big batch of sauerkraut to follow. I am just trying to pick them as soon as they start looking unhealthy, but will keep a few in the garden as long as I can - we sure don't have room for them in the fridge!
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Homemade ginger ale - brewing...
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Beautiful apples, ready for juicing!
We're also preserving some off-homestead foods as well. We got a couple of pounds of organic baby ginger from a local farm, and our yearly batch of ginger ale is brewing as we speak. It may be more of a ginger beer this year, as I think I let it go a week or so longer than usual before refrigerating, but it always turns out spicy and delicious!

And the giant bag of apples we picked last weekend is waiting in the crisper for juicing in preparation for my annual batch of hard cider - always an interesting adventure that turns out different every time! :-)

I guess that's the round-up for now! Other than the few exhausting weeks of canning tomatoes, it has been a good year, and not too stressful preservation-wise. So far, I've had time to tackle everything mostly one at a time. When the first freeze comes, I'm sure I'll be pretty busy cleaning, chopping, and freezing peppers and celery for a week or two. But in the meantime, I'm enjoying the beautiful fall weather and the continued bounty of the garden! Then will come winter, or as we gardeners know it, "rest season"!  I can't deny there is a part of me that is looking forward to it... :-)

Do you preserve your own food? What foods do you preserve, and how? Let me know in the comments below, or drop me an email!

Rose.

P.S. I just found out there is a really cool Homesteading Skills online summit coming up this week - I know it's short
notice, but check it out if you can - it looks awesome!

Go Here to Register for Free...

 


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